Climate change needs a marketing campaign


Morgenthau’s strategy prevailed and the first war bond was bought for $ 100 by the president himself in 1940. What followed was the most vigorous public service campaign in our country’s history. . It was so effective and so powerful that he raised $ 185.7 billion in bonds during the war years, covering more than half of total US war spending.

Actress Dorothy Lamour sold War Bonds for $ 22,204 per minute in Fall River on September 11, 1942. She worked three hours to sell and took in $ 3,996,792. More than 25,000 people took to the streets around Town Hall to watch her auction off a cigarette case for $ 11,000 in bonds. She later had dinner at a fundraiser at the Mellen Hotel and ended her day at the Wamsutta factories, where 16,000 textile workers pledged $ 500,000 to the war effort.Charles F. McCormick, Boston Globe staff / The Boston Globe

Today the world faces yet another existential threat, a crisis reconfirmed this week by the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is sounding new alarms on climate change. The report found that even the most optimistic scenarios would result in more than a billion people being exposed to heatwaves, floods and other catastrophic life-threatening weather events, and hundreds of millions of people. others would find it difficult to obtain water.

Yet just as Roosevelt faced a public reluctant to act against what appeared to be a distant threat, a significant number of Americans still do not fully understand the effects of climate change on their lives and the livelihoods of their communities though. nations don’t act in unison now. In 2020, only 43 percent of Americans believed climate change would impact them on a personal level, according to the Yale Program for Climate Change Communications. A more recent Gallup poll tells a similar story – 56 percent of Republican respondents say they don’t believe the effects of global warming will start to occur in their lifetime. Yet, as the most recent IPCC report makes clear, catastrophic flooding, forest fires, storms and sea level rise are already happening..

The result of such blind ignorance is that we will not achieve the “strong, rapid and sustained” carbon emission reductions that IPCC scientists confirm are our only way out.

The War Bonds campaign provides the best example of a public service campaign over the past century on the scale needed to increase public awareness. We must learn from its success and duplicate this effort.

In 1942, Roosevelt’s White House created the War advertising board to oversee the War Bonds campaign. The advertising council also oversaw other wartime campaigns such as “Women in War,” which recruited two million women into the workforce to support the war economy.

Together, the Treasury and the War Advertising Council deployed marketing strategies that are still effective today. Spokespersons like Hollywood starlet Judy Garland have sold bonds on national theme tours. Donald Duck promoted it on news shows and Norman Rockwell donated his Four Freedoms paintings for use on war posters. The president himself has raised awareness of war obligations during his fireside conversations.

The War Bonds campaign demonstrates that an effective climate change marketing and branding effort resists the urge to be too contradictory or apocalyptic, mistakes that climate change advertising campaigns often do. A much more effective strategy would be to use proactive messages with separate calls to action. A slogan like “Change Power, Not Freedom” could be a rallying cry for those who regard freedom as America’s highest ideal. Elected officials, influencers and activists could work together and inspire consumers to invest in community solar power, electric vehicles and heat pumps.

Imagine someone like Matthew McConaughey using his non-partisan platform to promote a vehicle buyback program for the electrification of transportation, or an artist like Kehinde Wiley donating his art to be used as a symbol of the fight against the climate change. Recently, Rep. Sean Casten from Illinois referred to hip-hop Megan Thee Stallion and singer Fergie during a speech in the House on the clean energy initiatives launched by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Except in rare circumstances, public service campaigns often suffer from a lack of funding. An exception was the 1998 “Truth” campaign in Florida. Then-governor Lawton Chiles earmarked $ 200 million from an $ 11 billion settlement with the tobacco industry to support a public education effort to reduce teen smoking rates. Studies show that it reduced smoking rates among college students by 40 percent in just two years.

During World War II, Archibald MacLeish, poet and director of the War Department’s Office of Facts and Figures, said: “The main battleground in this war is not the South Pacific. It is not the Middle East. It is neither England, nor Norway, nor the Russian steppes. It is American opinion. This is as true today for beating climate change as it was then for winning World War II.

Graham Piercey is a master’s student at Vermont Law School.


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